“Oh no, not again,” was the first thought in my head in response to the recent shooting in Las Vegas. When I heard the number of casualties I was overwhelmed with deep pain while the lyrics of Bob Marley’s “So Much Trouble in the World” played on repeat in the back of my mind.
Many of us are struggling with what we can do to end such extreme violence. We question why tragedies like this occur, why evil exists, and some wonder why God would allow such suffering. Rav Berg offered this explanation:
“The degree of evil and injustice on earth has nothing whatsoever to do with God. War, murder, violence, deceit, and oppression are not the result of His will. Rather, they are the result of millions of souls struggling to balance their karmic debt and failing.”
This quote to me has always served as a call to action for me: it’s on us. Every one of us is accountable for how we live and for the state of our society. We are all changing every day in big and small, seemingly unnoticed ways, but it’s our responsibility to direct the ways we are changing. We must be very specific and conscious of how we spend our time and who we spend it with because we are our environment.
I wondered about what must have occurred for the shooter to devolve into what he became. Something less than human? What life experiences, what thoughts built up to an act of violence of this magnitude? What went wrong?
There is no doubt that both good and evil exist in the world. When we look at the devastation caused by this shooter, it is impossible to judge his actions as anything other than evil. Evil is defined by Merriam Webster as “morally reprehensible,” “causing harm,” and “arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct.” Evil is the complete absence of love and kindness. Ironically, though, it is often what brings out love and kindness among strangers.
I also don’t think that I would be going out on a limb to suggest that this man likely didn’t receive very much love, compassion, or kindness throughout his life. This is the foundation of the point that I’m making—love, compassion, and kindness create chain reactions of good and while evil exists in the world, it becomes even more important that we each be accountable to sway the balance.
This tragedy struck close to home as I thought about my teenaged children who are venturing further and further away from home. In this world they are living in today, they need to worry about things that I never had to, like what might happen at a music festival. As much as we may want to retreat, to keep our children home safely, I don’t believe in living a life in fear. I am well aware that anything can happen at any moment, but I think it’s a wasted life to fear the unknowable, to not participate in things you enjoy because something might happen. If we live a risk-averse existence because of fear, we are also living a joy-averse existence.
We can’t control what happens to us and worrying about things we can’t control is a useless endeavor. This is why it is so important to live every day to the fullest extent of our capability — to remove the fears that separate us and to make kindness the order of every day.
If you find yourself asking what you can do in times of fear, my answer is simple: Love more. Be kinder. Kindness and love abounded in Las Vegas following the shootings. Acts of heroism, comfort, and love, are too numerous to recount. People shielded their loved ones, in some cases giving up their lives for them. Others comforted strangers, refusing to leave their sides even while the bullets still flew.
Let those people inspire us to love each other more deeply and live each day to the fullest. This is your life, and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is not a dress rehearsal. If you don’t love what you do, then don’t do it. If you love what you do, do more of it. And if you are not sure what you are passionate about, it’s time to find out.
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
Do you know anyone who is struggling that you can reach out to and let them know they are loved?